Warriors return many veteran players from last spring’s 15-5 squad
By DAN BYRNE
WAKEFIELD — Wakefield Memorial High School’s spring sports season is set to begin this coming Saturday with varsity boys’ lacrosse team prepared to open up its 2015 campaign when it hosts Austin Prep.
After last season’s success, WMHS lacrosse underwent a change at the head coaching position. With life changes, including a new job and a newborn child, last year’s head coach Geno Busa stepped down and ceded control of the program to one of his capable assistants.
Andrew Lavalle was named head coach and will be in charge of the Warriors in their quest to repeat last year’s success. Wakefield posted a 15-5 record and was 7-4 overall in the Middlesex League Freedom division.
Coach Lavalle spoke with enthusiasm and anticipation in regard to this year’s team, after last season’s success.
“I’m really excited to get the job,” Lavalle said. “It’s a great team with great character.”
The coach spoke briefly about how being part of the program last year made adjusting to a head coaching role this season easier, “I was here last year with the other coach so it was a pretty seamless transition.”
Familiarity with the players and the system helped make a comfortable switch to becoming head of the program for Lavalle but, if you ask him, that wasn’t the most important factor.
“It’s been such a smooth transition because my captains are so good,” Lavalle said, “We haven’t skipped a beat or taken any steps back. I owe it all to my captains and the older guys on the team being leaders. It’s a team full of great character.
“I couldn’t be happier with the group of kids we have,” Lavalle continued. “I’ve never been around a team that I like this much. The last couple years have just been a group of really likable kids.”
The emotion in coach Lavalle’s voice was palpable as he expressed his excitement to begin the season.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “The first day of practice was like Christmas morning for me, I couldn’t sleep.”
Wakefield will play its home games on Landrigan Field, another reason coach Lavalle is excited.
“That place is beautiful, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said the coach regarding their home turf.
It will be up to the players on the team to prove themselves once again during a grueling run through the Middlesex League.
“There’s not a whole lot of weakness in this league,” he said, “everybody is looking pretty dangerous this year.”
Coach Lavalle is expecting to face stiff competition from all the usual opponents. The Warriors will no doubt be in some white knuckle battles with the rest of the Middlesex League.
Coach Lavalle has some fine players who have showed in the past that they are capable of making waves throughout the Middlesex league and the state.
Wakefield’s form hinges on the play of their goalie, Alex Flynn. This is Flynn’s senior year and he has been named one of the team’s captains following an outstanding season a year ago.
“He’s real crisp and ready to go,” Coach Lavalle said regarding his first choice stopper.
The defense in front of Flynn will be led by some experienced team members as coach Lavalle explained, “Leading our defenders is another captain, Dylan Brady. He’s another returning guy, a big strong defender who plays his position real smart with a lot of good character and a lot of good attributes.”
“We also have Steve Marino, another great defender,” said the coach. “And this kid is a straight up savage (on the field). Other teams don’t like to play against him (Marino), he does everything right.”
Lavalle relies on Marino, a junior, for leadership on and off the field, “He’s a great guy to coach, he has the best attitude ever.”
Lavalle went on to discuss some of his top choice options for the other midfield positions.
“At LFM (left midfield) we have a young guy, Ty Collins (a sophomore), who is really good, he throws the stick,” he said.
“Our midlines are looking really strong this year, we’re going to be running a lot of mids,” Lavalle said. “We have six guys that get the ball and they want to dodge, they want to go, they want those ground balls. Those guys in midfield will do anything it takes to get that ball. One of our real strong dodgers last year was MJ Urbano.”
The senior midfielder who was elected captain after last year enters this season eighth all-time in scoring for Warrior lacrosse history with 123 points.
“He might be the fastest kid I’ve ever seen,” Lavalle noted.
Pairing up with Urbano in midfield is fellow senior known as JMac, James McAuliffe.
Coach Lavalle is impressed with his team’s speed, especially in midfield, “We’re looking fast at the midfield. James is looking just as good as MJ. If MJ is the fastest kid I’ve ever seen, JMac is coming pretty close to being him in sprints at practice.”
Another returning senior in midfield is Bryan Noyes.
“Bryan Noyes is another returning midfielder,” said Lavalle. “He’s one of our smartest guys on the field; he’s just an absolute field general. He really understands the game of lacrosse.”
Also returning from an outstanding season last year that earned him All-League honorable mention honors is Vin Ferretti, a senior
“We have a guy who worked really hard in the offseason, Vin Ferretti,” said Coach Lavalle. “We were pretty thin on the attack side this year but Vin came to practice and showed he can rip, he can dodge, he can score and he’s ready to go.”
Another player back from last season is Austin Collard, a sophomore.
“Austin Collard was another young guy last year that really helped us out,” said the coach. “He’s going to be a matchup nightmare this year for us.”
Coach Lavalle spoke about his team’s attacking options. For Wakefield, the man to talk about this year is junior Brandon Grinnell. After an outstanding sophomore year where he scored 95 points, the Warriors will be relying on their top scorer to light up the scoreboard. Grinnell’s two year point total of 142 has him at fifth place on the Warriors’ all-time scoring list.
“On the attack side of the field we have Brandon Grinnell,” Coach Lavalle said. “This is a guy that makes everybody scared. When he dodges there are very few people in any league that can cover him.”
Lavalle went on saying, “He has the fastest first three steps and the quickest hands. You try to get the ball to the guys who are going to be your finishers and Brandon can absolutely finish. Not only does he have the talent, he definitely has the talent but he has the smarts for it, another field general who always knows exactly what’s going on. If he wanted to, he could be coaching lacrosse. He’s not just a player, he’s an all-around player.”
Grinnell won’t be alone up front as coach Lavalle plans to roll out Pat Leary, a sophomore, at attack as well.
“Another young guy coming back on the attack side is Pat Leary,” said the coach. “He’s a hockey guy and they always have the best hands, so he has great hands and he’s ready to go.”
Coach Lavalle has high expectations for all his players and he feels that their abilities and talent alone aren’t their only advantage.
“We have a great lacrosse IQ and I think that is going to be our best attribute this year; our lacrosse knowledge,” said the coach.
The coach spoke briefly about his team’s status before their first game this coming Saturday.
“I’m a 3 P’s type of guy, I believe in passion, preparation and performance,” Lavalle said. “We have the passion, the kids have the passion We are prepared for this game. There’s nothing that we’re not prepared for in this game on Saturday. “The last piece is their performance and that’s where we’re willing to show that passion and that’s where we want to show that preparation. We’re really chomping at the bit to go. I can’t wait for this first game.”
The first face-off of the season is set for 10 a.m. on Saturday morning at Landrigan Field as the Austin Prep School Cougars come to town.